I should have changed the plan as soon as we got in line.
Peter Pan is clearly one of Disneyland’s kids’ rides, but my son looked at the line and said, “no no no.” Being the good parents that we are, we told him he would love it and worked to amp him up for the experience.
After the 20-minute wait and the three-minute ride, my two-year-old was right and we were wrong. He hated Peter Pan.
His “nononono” had continued as he rode through Neverland with his ears plugged because of the loud music. Who knew a kid wouldn’t like a kid’s ride?
But as soon as it was over and we emerged from the ride, my shaken child with tears in his eyes pointed to the nearby carousel and smiled, yelling “Merry Go Round!”
So we went over and let him ride the ride he wanted to ride. He spent the whole time laughing and cheering.
As the carousel slowed down, he pointed to Dumbo and shouted “Elephants!” So we rode Dumbo, and he loved making his cart go up and down while waving at the people watching below.
It’s Disney. One ride isn’t better than another. So why didn’t we listen as soon as we got into the Peter Pan ride to his “no”? We thought we knew better, he’d like it as soon as he tried it, and it would be good for him to experience.
The same thing happens outside of Disney. With “grownups.”
We push people to rides they’re not ready for. Life has enough stretching in it without us finding new ways for people to grow. The best thing student affairs folks or people in helping professions can do is help people navigate the challenges that are already happening. In that process, help them name and identify who they really are. Help them notice the intersection between what they are good at and what they enjoy. Help them find the inner joy that comes from living out the way they are wired.
We push ourselves to rides we won’t enjoy because we think it will be “good for us.” It’s as true for us (me) as it is for others (you). Without realizing it, we can spend half our lives living for other people’s values – stretching because we’ve been told we should. Stretching in the wrong direction.
Every person is different. That’s good. There are some rides you’ll love and some you’ll hate. There are some we have to ride regardless. But when we have the choice, the secret to success is to choose the options, opportunities, and actions you’ll can’t wait to be a part of. And say no to everything else.